A Look Back at my 2010

With 2010 behind us, I decided to put together a small collection of articles I authored throughout the year focusing on topics that I believe will be just as important in 2011 as they were in 2010. Windows 7 continues to grow in market share tremendously, people are realizing the benefits of using Windows 7 daily, whether its at home, work, on the go, in the park or wherever life takes you. According to Net Applications Windows 7 passed the 20% mark in December of 2010. In addition to Windows 7, we saw Microsoft reemphasize their commitment to not just software on the desktop, but the new buzz word ‘Cloud’ which is taking the industry by storm (maybe storm is not the best word to describe it). A lot of people don’t know this, but Microsoft has been in the Cloud business a long time, Web services such as MSN Portal, Hotmail Web Mail, MSN Messenger, Outlook Web Access were early iterations of Microsoft pioneering cloud technologies in the 90’s and let us not forget about Internet Explorer which help to facilitate these experiences.

2010 saw the arrival of a cohesive experience across the board where the Cloud was concerned, what made it great was how much it complimented the software side of things. Take Microsoft Office 2010 for instance and the ability to save documents directly to Skydrive, collaborate on a presentation using Office Web Apps with Office PowerPoint 2010 on the desktop in real time.

Enjoying the beauty of the web with Internet Explorer 9   2010 was a very competitive year in the web browser market, we saw innovation after innovation coming from all angles. Microsoft was one of the innovators in 2010, the release of Internet Explorer 9 beta saw a refined and streamlined browsing experience that focused on making the web not only easier to use but more integrated with the desktop by making pages more app centric. You can pin your favorite web pages to the Windows 7 taskbar and access common functionality such as Jump List. Performance is also another major win with IE9, loading web pages much faster because the browser takes advantage of accelerated graphics and technologies built into Windows 7 such as Direct3D so playing games and watching video is more immersive, utilizing your entire PC to bring users the ultimate web browsing experience. I am anxiously awaiting the Release Candidate of IE 9. BTW, the IE 9 beta has hit 20 million downloads so far.

Introducing Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Beta Microsoft released a preview of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 in July of 2010, the first major maintenance update to Windows 7 promises to be a minor one. I have been running it exclusively and updated to the RC in October, there is not much to tell since its basically a roll up of updates that have been released for the OS since it went to manufacturing in July 2009. We should expect the final release sometime in Q1 of 2011. If this is holding you back from upgrading to Windows 7, put that plan aside and upgrade now, all that you are getting in SP1 can be downloaded through Windows Update ‘now’.

Creating the Perfect Windows 7 Wallpaper Theme  As more people upgrade to Windows 7, they are realizing just how much customization opportunities are built into the OS. Personally, I think it makes Windows 7 the first truly social OS. Windows 7 Themes are not just for your personal pleasure, you can share them with family and friends, host them on your Windows Live Skydrive, email them. I had fun creating a theme based on ‘clouds’. Last year I took some pictures in the evening, the sky was just so gorgeous and the clouds displayed a truly artistic performance I just had to capture the memory. It wasn’t until I read on the Windows Team Blog that Microsoft was running a Windows 7 Theme contest about clouds, I remember I had taken them. I launched Windows Live Photo Gallery, made a few edits and created something I could share.

Create a Signature Windows 7 PC Since we are on the topic of customization, one of the things you might often deal with after purchasing a new PC is removing some of the bundled software that comes with it. Once you do this, you can even customize the OS itself to further improve overall system performance by uninstalling components in the operating system you don’t use often. Another important step is to backup your customization as a system image. What this ensures is, if you need to reinstall Windows 7 in the future, you don’t have to go through the manual chore of reinstalling Windows 7 from scratch then re-customize it just the way you like, just restore the image. If you got a new computer for Christmas, definitely check out this article.

Use BitLocker to Encrypt your Hard Disks Laptops here, laptops there, laptops everywhere! More and more persons are choosing laptops not only for mobile purposes but also as their primary computer. If you travel with that computer a lot, you want to keep it safe. Windows 7 comes with tools such as BitLocker so you can safely encrypt and ensure that your data is not accessible to unauthorized individuals. I have been using BitLocker personally since I am travelling a lot more with my laptop these days. Although BitLocker is limited to Ultimate and Enterprise editions, I also looked at another solution for computers running Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium and Professional.

My Early Experience with the New Windows Live Hotmail  Hotmail, Microsoft’s free Web Mail service also saw a major revamp in 2010. The emphasis on making the service more social while feeling like an actual desktop application. I personally am a fan of the new search capabilities of the service, it makes finding old email messages a cinch. Photos is also easier to work with in Hotmail wave 4, you can quickly view and create slide shows and download pictures to your picture library in one click. I also like the improved collaboration tools built in, you can open office documents on the fly from within Hotmail, make edits, save them back to Hotmail and send them off. Hotmail also adopts a nice feature from Microsoft Outlook 2010 called Conversation View which makes it easier to keep track of a conversation thread between multiple parties. Another nice addition is the ability to turn off the ad banner, so, its more convenient to use. You can even do instant messaging from within the new Hotmail (its limited to Hotmail, since you can roam with your IM conversation across Windows Live properties) Hotmail is definitely a nice update and I can tell you this, its faster than both Gmail and Yahoo! How do I know this? Well I use a GPRS modem most of the time, nuff said.

Microsoft: Nearly Half of Windows 7 Installations are 64 bit  2010 was a break out year for Windows 7, hundreds of millions of users are running the Microsoft block buster. With competitive threats such as Chrome OS (which failed to show up) and the empty barrel Linux at 1% penetration, Windows 7 saw a healthy climb in market share attributed to its ease of use, new PC form factors and general demand for new PC’s. What was most exciting though is the penetration of the 64 bit architecture. A few years ago (2005) Microsoft introduced its first mainstream 64 bit Windows client called Windows XP Professional x64 edition. Although adoption was mostly among the technical crowd, Microsoft has stuck to its commitment, in summer of 2010, Microsoft announced that nearly half of all Windows 7 installations are 64 bit. Microsoft has also shown its commitment by releasing a 64 bit native version of Microsoft Office and industry partners such as AutoDesk and Adobe have also released 64 bit versions of some of their popular products.

Microsoft Office 2010 has RTMed Microsoft released the latest version of its business productivity suite in 2010. The suite provides a streamlined Ribbon interface across the entire family of modules. Also, tighter integration with the web through Office Web Apps and enhanced collaboration tools make it easier to work on documents with multiple parties. There are some lovely improvements throughout the suite, for instance, I love the new find and replace task pane which replaces the old modal dialogue. PowerPoint’s video features are just amazing, you can even broadcast on the web and publish your presentation to YouTube. I also like the ability to merge presentations, it is so much easier, especially when working on group presentations. Outlook in particular is another major upgrade with support for the Ribbon and Conversation View and ability to integrate with Social Networking services such as Facebook and Messenger. Microsoft for the first time released a fully native 64 bit version of Office too so apps such as Excel are able to handle large spreadsheets with large data sets. Microsoft also streamlined the Office suite, removing upgrade packages and making the suite more affordable with a simplified set of SKU’s. Office also saw the introduction of product key cards which made it easier to upgrade an edition to another edition with more programs.

Trying out Windows Live Messenger for iPhone With the release of Windows Live Essentials 2011, there is a new version of the popular instant messaging client, Windows Live Messenger. The new version is heavily focused on integration popular social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter. Your post and tweets show up in the Messenger contact window as Personal Messages. You can also interact at a much deeper level with your contacts, you can view the videos they are viewing on YouTube, their latest photos on Flickr, or their latest blog entries. Its much richer and engaging making this version the ultimate social networking tool. An unexpected surprise too was the release of Windows Live Messenger for the Apple iOS platform. So you can use Messenger on your iPod Touch or iPhone. I own an iPod Touch so I found this very exciting and I use it regularly.

Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award 2010  I got a major surprise early April 2010 when I was notified by Microsoft that I was awarded Microsoft MVP for my community contributions over the past year. It’s a major highlight for me, knowing that my passion for Windows has impacted individuals in way that is worthy enough to be recognized. Its still surreal when I think about it, being in a group of 5,000 individuals out of 100 million who participate in technical communities everyday is a major achievement. Of course, it would not have been possible without my readership. Thank You!

2011 looks to be a very exciting year, the topics I believe will be on everyone’s mind include Tablet/Slate devices, the Cloud, large migrations to Windows 7, social networking and how it is woven into our daily lives. Mobile will also be a major topic once again, in October 2010 Microsoft launched their Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system for smartphone devices. It will be interesting to see how the adoption goes. It’s a win for consumers having more choices in the market, its an uphill battle of course, for Microsoft but I believe being in the market is good for the industry. So far 1.5 million devices have been sold with WP7. The interest is growing, just the other day a friend asked which device should he choose, Android or WP7? So, Microsoft is creating awareness, but most of all interest.

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